The big iPad and flight tech story this weekend involved chart vendor Jeppesen and charter operator Executive Jet Management. The companies received authorization from the FAA to use iPads running the Jeppesen Mobile TC App for iPad as an electronic flight bag, replacing the traditional leather pilot's bag full of paper charts.
One of the caveats of using the iPad is that it must be secured and visible during all phases of flight. The usual way for pilots to keep charts and notes at hand is to use a kneeboard, which is essentially a clipboard strapped to the pilot's leg so that it can stay in place and be easily readable. Last year, shortly after the iPad hit the market, TUAW ran a post about an aluminum iPad kneeboard called the iPro. Now Atlanta Flight, the company that developed the iPro, has come out with a less expensive version called the iPro Aviator.
The new model is US$79.95; it's currently available in black, and a navy blue version should be out next month. While this is designed for pilots, I found (while using a review unit) that this is useful for students in classrooms, and for passengers in cars. Read on for a short review of the iPro Aviator Kneeboard.
The iPro Aviator features an elastic strap with Velcro closures to strap to your leg. I found it to be very comfortable, and (since I'm not a pilot) I could easily see using this as a passenger in a car. The front of the kneeboard doesn't cover the entire face of the iPad. This is done for the benefit of pilots so that opening the cover doesn't bump the control yoke. The cover also features a clipboard for holding important documents or paper, and it makes a wonderful lap desk for writing. The cover / writing surface can be removed and reattached easily with no tools.
While it's attached to your leg, there's a slight angle built in so that the screen is a bit easier to read than if it were flat. I found that the iPro Aviator provided a nice surface for writing notes on the iPad (using Noteshelf) when placed on a desk.
Once you're back on the ground, the iPro Aviator does a great job of protecting your iPad from bumps and scratches, and it also has a kickstand that folds out of the back for desktop use. There's a wide opening at the bottom of the iPro Aviator so that it doesn't need to be removed for charging or syncing of the iPad.
One important thing to note is that the iPro Aviator is designed for use while sitting; the strap is not designed to hold your iPad onto your leg while you're walking around.
What could be improved?
There are only two things I can think of that could improve the iPro Aviator. First, it would be nice to have a clip on the side of the device that could hold either a Pogo Sketch, AluPen or other stylus for use with note-taking apps. The second improvement would be a retractable leg strap to get the elastic band out of the way when it's not being used to either hold the cover in place or strapped around your leg. As it is, when I was using the iPro Aviator on a desk, I found that I had to flop the straps out to the sides.
I can see lots of uses for the iPro Aviator kneeboard. Not only will pilots find it useful, but it could be handy for students, doctors who are taking notes while interviewing patients, and anyone else who wants to view content on their iPad without needing to hold it in two hands. The kneeboard is beautifully designed, tough and well made. Considering that some other cases are more expensive and nowhere as useful, I highly recommend the iPro Aviator.
Stay tuned to TUAW, as we'll be hosting a giveaway of our iPro Aviator review unit in the near future.